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Talkin' 'bout my g-generation...

A Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie story by Greg Swann

"The Lexus always has the right of way!" The Rodeo Driver said that, shouted it really. He was stomping around in $400 shoes. He was wearing a $1,200 tuxedo and his eyes were concealed behind $200 sunglasses. His hair was perfect, a cascade of sleek black ringlets spilling halfway down his back. He was stalking back and forth behind his sleek black Lexus. The car wasn't really 47 feet long, it just looked that way.

"Oh, what a crock!" said the New Age Proto Dowager from behind the wheel of her pearl gray Infinity. Her dusky hair was tied up in a silk something that was designed to look like it had been imported from Africa. Her body was swathed in a crepe-like something that was designed to look like it had been imported from hell. Her vermillion-lacquered nails were not actually 47 inches long, they just looked that way. Perhaps to compensate for her lack of a Lexus, she was wearing $300 sunglasses.

And, truly, a fender-bender isn't much to write home about. But it's not every day you see a fender-bender involving people who wear on their bodies more money than I made last month. And the funny part is, as nearly as I could see neither fender was dented...

But it got me to stop walking. I admit it doesn't take much.

The two cars were blocking the accessway to a huge structure that seemed as if it were about to commit suicide by jumping into Lake Erie. It was a sleek black glass pyramid with cancerous white appurtenances sprouting from it in random locations. I looked at it and imagined that a drawing of it might work well in a science fiction magazine: artist's conception of an anatomically correct robot's teat.

I wandered up to the entrance and there were a bunch of kids--some as old as 50--wandering around. Hippies and freaks and Deadheads and punks and bikers and techno-dweebs and tiny little teeny-boppers popping BubbleYum, all milling around looking kind of lost and forgotten.

And I couldn't figure out why at first, since the traffic at the door was brisk. Rodeo Drivers and Proto Dowagers by the dozens snaked along a line defined by red velvet ropes. Single-file, boy-girl, boy-girl, in a neat and orderly fashion. Their clothes were exquisite. Their shoes were luminescent. Their hair was perfect.

"What is this place," I said to one of the Deadheads, "a Yuppie deprogramming center?" I thought I was making a joke.

He snorted and scratched at his graying beard. He said, "It's the Museum of Rock 'n' Roll, man."

I threw my head back and looked up at the sleek black mess, thinking that it was a delicious irony that the desiccated curators had taken the most horizontal art form in Western history and rendered it as a pyramid. I said, "They paved paradise and put up a robot's teat."

I thought I was making a joke, but no one laughed. The Deadhead nodded solemnly. Over behind the red velvet ropes a couple of people gave me looks that were half insulted, half fearful. Running through their minds, I knew, was ultimate expression of horror: "You're not going to make... a scene, are you?"

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to my right. The Freaks smelled of pot and dirt and motor oil and sticky, sticky bubble-gum. The Yups smelled of Italian leather and French soap and dry cleaning fluid and those incredibly pungent fragrances with names like Jejune Pour Homme and Matricide.

And at the Museum of Rock 'n' Roll there is a sign that says, "Dress code strictly enforced." Which explained the milling Freaks. Told me where I wasn't going, too.

And there is a sign that says, "Silence is golden." This could use some reinforcement, I think, perhaps a spinster with a bun in a gingham dress pressing a finger to her tight-pursed lips.

And there is a sign that says, "No trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted."

And, god bless her, there was a gutsy little teeny-bopper with a can of fluorescent orange spray paint. On the sleek black glass she sprayed, "Prosecutors will be violated!"

And that's the attitude, I said to myself. I know I often make people uncomfortable, and sometimes when I speak, people smile in a too-big way and the smile seems to freeze on their faces and they nod and nod and nod and they back away very slowly. This is my destiny, I know, to be abandoned in my dotage at every park bench and street corner if I dare to venture an observation. And yet I don't have sense enough to shut up, so I suppose I deserve what I get.

But I like to give a little, too...

So I spoke to the Deadhead, but loudly enough for the Yuppies to hear. "Wouldn't it be cool if Jim Morrison were still alive?"

The Deadhead grunted. We all know you can't jump-start them. A lot of the Freaks turned to listen. And a lot of the Yups had to strain hard not to turn; willful ignorance ain't easy.

Still louder, I said, "Wouldn't it be just delicious if the Thunder Lizard of the freaks got busted for making noise in the Museum of Rock-and-freaking-Roll?"

The Freaks cheered, hoot-hoot-hooting and pumping their fists. The Yups looked as if they expected at any moment to decorate the plaza with thousands of dollars worth of unique dining experiences. Some of the techno-dweebs ripped off an old Ian Hunter tune and started chanting, "Cleveland sucks! Cleveland sucks!"

A hairy biker--covered in grease, draped in chains--jumped out at the Yups. He said, "Why don't you all just f-f-f-fade away?!?" And the Yuppies faded f-f-f-fast.

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to my right. Mere anarchy it is not. It's anarchy with a back-beat, and when it pumps, it jumps. But the center cannot hold, so I cut out.

If you walk through a suburb at sundown, any suburb anywhere, soon enough you'll hear a garage throbbing like the heartbeat of Thor. The kids inside try to pretend they're cool and they try to pretend they have talent and they try to pretend they don't have oily red zits and geeky, squeaky voices. But then they crank up the amps and they become the attitude and the sound pushes every little suburban thing right through the concrete floor. The drums will pound through your guts and the bass will reverb in your rib cage. And then the Stratocaster--the Strat that somebody's mom found at somebody's yard sale--the Strat will come up and shriek like an electrocuted cat. And then that garage will become the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Flame, and it will clean Cleveland's clock, it will clean up that Cleveland crock.

Rock 'n' roll will never die. Until they put it in a museum...

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